Since BADBADNOTGOOD (BBNG)’s discovery by Tyler the Creator in 2011, their rise has been nothing short of meteoric, and they now find themselves standing shoulder to shoulder with Ghostface Killah, who collaborated on their recent release. However, on Sour Soul, BBNG sounds anything but starstruck. On this album, their signature brand of high voltage jazz/hip hop is fused with elements of noir and Morricone-esque spaghetti western. Wisely, they tone down some of their more erratic elements to make room for Ghostface’s trademark punishing lyrical delivery.
As for Ghost himself, his typical style meshes nearly perfectly with BBNG’s rumbling background work. Even if Ghostface Killah’s rapping is a tad predictable, the album’s guest features more than make up for it. Danny Brown is pure fire on “Six Degrees,” boasting his usual idiosyncratic timbre that inspires either acclaim or disdain, depending on who you ask. When he claims to “eat a rapper like butternut squash,” I’m inclined to agree.
On “Ray Gun,” another standout of the album, BBNG provide a sort of drugged-out Family Stone impression, while Ghost and underground king MF DOOM trade lyrical blows. It’s funky, psychedelic, almost giddy fun—especially when the song pulls a 180 halfway through and transitions to a booming BBNG outro. In fact, the entire album feels laid back—a welcome relief in an era of hip hop in which every track is meticulously put together by an army of producers and emcees.
Is Sour Soul a perfect album? Unfortunately not. It doesn’t feature a lot of variation in lyrics, flow, or production. At times, Ghost can sound stale—albeit not as often as other critics would have you believe. In the end, none of this matters all that much. BBNG are as on point as they’ve ever been.